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We’re not responsible…

By G.D.

By G.D. Maxwell

With television spawning such patent trash as Reality Anything, it’s probably pedantic to take them to task for simply misusing words but I’m getting more than a little pissed off at having some vacuous talking head introduce an Encore Presentation when we all know what they’re really talking about is a rerun.

It cheapens the word, debases the language and fools no one. Besides, it demeans well-planned encores performed by rock bands capitulating to the metronomic chants of frenzied crowds longing to hear one last song.

Having said that, my head feels like it’s full of pudding. So here’s an encore presentation. Sue me.

I had a dream. Me and Martin. Council for the Resort Principality of Whistler had debated and unanimously – oh yeah, it must have been a dream – passed a new by-law. It read, in part:


Whistler is peopled largely by thrill-seeking, athletic, hedonistic, transient youths, especially the ones who have lived here long enough to grow old without noticing; and,


Visitors to Whistler go out of their way to engage in activities they wouldn’t even think of doing at home and for which they have neither the skills nor the requisite degree of physical fitness; and,


many of the people described above – particularly in paragraph II – live under the delusion that any harm visited upon them must be somebody else’s fault; and,


there are too damn many lawyers in the world, particularly the USofA, particularly who work on a contingency basis and advertise on tasteless billboards along the Interstate that say: "BEEN HURT? SUE THE BASTARDS!", and;


everyone operating a tourist-oriented business in Whistler is offering the chance to engage in an activity potentially harmful to the participants mental, physical or economic health,


that Whistler is an inherently risky resort municipality. All people living in or entering the boundaries of Whistler hereby assume all risks arising out of any and all activities engaged in by themselves or others for the duration of their stay, including, but not limited to, just passing through town.

At both ends of the resort boundaries, large signs were erected on Highway 99, one after another, each carrying one of the Whereases and the Hereby Proclaimed. And, like shrink wrapping on software, the final sign in the series stated that by passing it, you agreed to be bound by the terms and conditions outlined, otherwise, you should turn around immediately and seek another internationally famous resort municipality to spend your recess at.

Overnight, the conduct of business in Whistler was transformed. Thousands cheered, lawyers wept. Releases of Liability became obsolete and people were able to engage in outrageously dangerous activities like nude rollerblading, skiing without sunscreen, warp-speed mountain bike descents, eating double scoops of extra-fat ice cream, having unprotected sex and getting so drunk their pores sweat tequila, all without ever signing a Release of Liability or once hearing the word waiver, except as it related to their courage and sanity.

The few, the twisted, the unrepentant who left our happy mountain home lame or crippled, were laughed out of court by unmoved judges and juries. "Don’t be a sap. You waived your right to sue when you entered Whistler. You knew whitewater bungee surfing was dangerous. Now drag your sorry butt out of court and have a nice day," read one not uncommon verdict.

Later in the day, I realized it all had to be a dream. I went into the Village for lunch, wandered lost into a new chain-themed restaurant and ordered a Caesar salad. After taking my order, the waitress returned with a glass of water and a Release of Liability. It informed me Caesar salad contained inherent risks, including but not limited to potential microbial poisoning from raw egg contained in the dressing, anchovy bones that could stick in my throat and choke me, and croutons – possibly left over from the Trudeau years– so dry I ran the risk of dehydrating while eating them.

Having lived here long enough to be used to such documents, I didn’t bother to read the fine print. "No Fear, man," I muttered. "Extreme Lunch," another thrill seeker in the next booth piped in, flashing me the Whistler Wave. Feeling bad to the bone, I dug in. Several bites later, I plunged the fork through my cheek when my attention was briskly diverted by a visiting celebrity desperately seeking a public washroom. Stanching the blood with my serviette, I glanced quickly at the Release to see if it said anything about self-inflicted utensil wounds. It did. In fact it specifically mentioned impalement with a fork when distracted by a celebrity, both current and fading.

Signing waivers in Whistler is not unusual. Locals can often be heard to say, "A day without a waiver is like a day without variable visibility," or words to that effect. It’s not that we like signing waivers or forcing other people to ponder, even briefly, their own mortality as they sign them. Besides, they have no real choice in the matter, facing on the one hand the potential for serious bodily harm and, on the other, the immediate and unremitting ridicule of their teenage children whose bright idea it was to go heli-skydiving in the first place.

But lawyers make us do it. As the numbers of lawyers has risen from about 1 per 1300 Canadians 20 years ago to 1 per 300 today, it has been harder and harder for all of them to find honest legal work. Around 1983, lawyers became so numerous they started to eat their young and the heretofore – a legal word – obscure field of legal malpractice suits skyrocketed as lawyer turned on lawyer.

The more lawyers multiplied, the more bizarre things they found to sue for. As defensive measures, things like warnings and waivers became every day distractions. The Halloween after the first Batman movie came out, there was a Batman costume on the market. Its box carried a warning, I’m not making this up, that read: "Caution. Cape does not allow wearer to fly."

Now, I used to be a child. And more than anything, I wanted to fly. I still have the scars to prove it. But no matter how badly I wanted to fly, I knew the towel tied around my neck wasn’t the key to escaping gravity. It just made me look cool. No, a warning like that can only be aimed at a parent or a lawyer looking for someone to sue because they can’t believe their kid or client was dumb enough to jump off the garage roof.

I’m pretty sure we’ve gone too far down the path of righteous litigation to turn back now. But council might want to consider – on environmental grounds if nothing else – a blanket Whistler Resort Liability Waiver.

Life could be a dream...sha-boom.